No summer break here: Agencies to receive plain-language report cards

Ever tried to make sense of the legalese often used in government documents? It’s no easy task. Now, one organization determined to enforce clarity is preparing to issue report cards on the government’s use of easier-to-understand vernacular.

Under 2010’s Plain Language Act, which went into effect July 2011, federal agencies are required to “write all new publications, forms and publicly distributed documents in a 'clear, concise, well-organized' manner,” according to www.plainlanguage.gov.

On July 19 the non-profit Center for Plain Language will release the report cards in a briefing with Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), the main sponsor of the act, and Annetta Cheek, chair of the Center for Plain Language.

The act requires agencies to take a number of steps in increasing transparency, including designating a senior official to oversee the implementation, communicating the requirements to and training employees in plain writing, establishing a compliance process, and establishing a section of the agency’s website on plain writing. It also mandates the agency designate a point of contact to receive and respond to the public’s comments on the agency’s implementation and required reports, according to a release from Braley’s office.

The report cards will grade agencies on a scale of A to F on their progress in implementing these requirements.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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